With 2014 here I feel like getting all big picture with beer. How popular is craft beer in our everyday lexicon? Which words are popular and which ones are unpopular?

For this I turned to the almighty Google Trends. If you’ve never used it, clear your schedule for the next couple of hours. You can get totally lost in it. Google Trends tells you how popular a search term is, which is a good proxy for how popular a term is in everyday life.

First let’s compare “craft beer” to a popular mainstream term just to get a little perspective, say “Duck Dynasty”:

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Westvleteren 12On October 24th, at approximately 8:30pm Mountain Time, I tasted the holy grail – Westvleteren 12.

“Westy 12″ as it’s known by most, is continually near the top of beer rankings, occupying the top seat the majority of the time. But how much of that is due to its scarcity?

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When I study history my eyes glaze over when reading dates. Just reading a date as a number on a page does nothing for me. The two things that are missing are context and visuals. Context tells the larger story of the event: “What else was happening? Was is before this? Was it after that?” Visuals are important because I’m a visual learner. Turning a boring number on a page into something I can see brings it to life.

When I was reading The Audacity of Hops (great book) the familiar glazing-over feeling came back. The story of craft beer in America is a great one. The characters, the tales, the beers. It’s a story every beer drinker should learn.

While reading the book I got the idea to create this interactive American craft beer timeline:

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Sam Adams Facebook

Living in Colorado, you don’t have to convince anyone that good beer can come in a can. When Oskar Blues, Avery, and New Belgium are in your state, you learn this fact at a young age. Even most craft beers drinkers outside of Colorado know that great beers are being put into cans and that’s OK.

But we’re in the minority.

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IPA blind tasting group
A blind tasting is the great equalizer.

Take away the hype, the label, the expectations, and you’re left with what matters most – the flavor. IPAs are perhaps the most hyped beers due to the popularity of the style and America’s “hop mania”.

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Epic Beer Festival Tasting Glass pictureThe Epic Beer Festival came to Denver this past weekend. Although this is its first year, the organizers have put on festivals in Denver in the past. They outgrew those and needed something more “epic”.

Epic started in San Diego. Denver is the second city to get it, with Philadelphia and Dallas up next.

I thought it was a great combination of a lot of breweries and a not-too-large crowd. The massive Colorado Convention Center is a great place for a festival. It had enough room that the breweries weren’t right on top of each other and there was plenty of space around the outside for you to step out of the crowds for a breather.

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Beer Candied Bacon

by Billy Broas

Beer Candied Bacon Recipe

“Beer”
“Candy”
“Bacon”

I had never heard those three words put together. My brain can’t perform that type of mental feat. When I first heard about it on this CraftBeer.com article it blew my mind. I had to try it.

The all important question was, “What beer to use?”

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Alcohol FreeI did the unthinkable – I went 30 days without drinking beer.

Not only that, I went 30 days without drinking any alcohol at all.

You may pick your jaw back up off the floor now.

So why did I do it? It’s something I’ve been planning for a while.

I was trying to think of the last time I went 30 days booze-free. I honestly can’t remember (bad sign). Let’s just called it a decade and cut it off there.

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The results are in. I took the BJCP on March 2nd and my score was emailed on June 3rd.

The score: 80

Whew!

That’s a relief. I was really hoping for at least an 80 because that is the score needed to qualify for National ranking.

Now I’ll tell you all about the exam in case I can help some BJCP hopefuls out there prepare. First, here is the exam feedback sheet I received with my score:

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LetsPour Review

by Billy Broas

Let's Pour LogoWhat do you do when you want a beer that isn’t sold in your area?

Simple question, not such an easy answer.

A few options are beer of the month clubs, beer trades, online retailers, and beer travel.

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